Tech w2k8_password_reset_incorrect_cropped

Published on December 12th, 2012 | by Kieran


Resetting Administrator Password in Windows 2008

Being in my line of work, I make use of dozens of test servers and virtual machines and from time to time I can forget what the administrator password is. To save time, usually I would use the Offline NT Password & Registry Editor to simply reset the password. However I was told of another useful method using the Microsoft Windows Server 2008 installation DVD / ISO Image. It’s a breeze to reset the password so I thought I would share. Personally I have tried this on a standalone Windows Server 2008 R2 but it should also work with Domain Controllers for resetting domain administrator passwords.

  • Boot from the Micrsoft Windows Server 2008 DVD
  • From the Install Windows menu, click “Next”.
  • Select “Repair your computer”
  • In the System Recovery Options, select the Operating System instance that you wish to repair and click “Next”.
  • Select “Command Prompt”. The
  • At the command prompt, run the following commands:

    cd windows\system32
    ren Utilman.exe Utilman.exe.old
    copy cmd.exe Utilman.exe

  • Reboot the server allowing Windows to load as normal
  • At the logon screen, press Windows Key + U.
  • As the command prompt, enter the following command:

    net user administrator Password12
    This will set the password for the Administrator user to be Password12 (case sensitive).

Closing the command prompt, you should now be able to log back onto the server using the password you have provided in the last step.

Cleanup Steps

Once you have verified you can log on to the server you will have repeat the steps above and boot using the Windows Server 2008 DVD/ISO and run the command prompt again.

  • Delete the newly created Utilman.exe from C:\Windows\System32
  • Rename Utilman.exe.old back to Utilman.exe

You should be back up and running as if nothing ever happened.

Some Screenshots

w2k8_password_reset_01 w2k8_password_reset_02 w2k8_password_reset_03 w2k8_password_reset_04 w2k8_password_reset_05 w2k8_password_reset_06 w2k8_password_reset_cmd_prompt

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About the Author

has worked with computers and technology for nearly 20 years. Based in the United Kingdom, he works throughout EMEA as a Solution Consultant, specialising in Fax & Document Distribution technologies. Predominantly blogging on he can also be found on Twitter @KieranLane, and Flickr.

82 Responses to Resetting Administrator Password in Windows 2008

  1. TSands says:

    I received internal error 1359. Ended up opening MMC > Computer Managment and creating a new user.

  2. ben says:

    OfflineNT is awesome. I used it a long time ago, had reason to use it recently and was surprised it still worked!

  3. Gurch says:

    Thanks Kieran, worked a treat.
    Just a minor observation, in your notes you have “Password123”, in the screenshot it’s correct as Password12, so you just might want to change this as it doesn’t work with the Password123.


  4. Stephan says:

    Very nice trick! Thank you very much!

  5. Mark Garcia says:

    Very simple and clean instructions. Saved me!

  6. MrC says:

    Work a treat for me and saved a lot of hassle to rebuild.
    Did have to search around for some info on VMWare guest bios updating but got there in the end.
    Re the post on password mismatch, to be honest you should be setting your own passwords, so what ever is typed in blogs/posts is for example purposes.

  7. George says:

    Saved me also Thank you very much

  8. SANTOS says:


  9. Johnny Weiss says:

    So much about Microsoft security.

  10. kais says:

    Hello, does this working in Windows 2008 Enterprise R2 and standalone?

  11. Keith says:

    Very neat solution! However I have a low-end Proliant server with a simple RAID controller. When I get as far as bringing up a command prompt (the first time) there is no C: drive visible. I think this has something to do with the RAID controller? Anyway I have searched in vain – the only drives that can be seen are the DVD drive and the X: drive. Any suggestions?

    • Kieran says:

      Hi Keith,

      I had similar issues loading ESX 3.5 on an old ML110. I’m afraid you will need to get the drivers for the RAID card in order to mount the drives and access the Windows folder. What server do you have.


      • Keith says:

        Makes sense. The server is an ML150 G6 with a very basic Smart Array B110i controller. I think when I installed WS2012 I got a chance to load the drivers further into the Windows installation. I have the drivers on a CD. The hp Easy Setup CD normally loads drivers before handing over to the Windows installation but my Easy Setup predates WS2012, so was useless. I’m a bit vague about how to load the drivers and still be able to boot from the Windows DVD?

  12. Milan says:

    Offline NT Password & Registry Editor only works with local administrator password. It doesn’t support domain user account on Windows 2008. That is why I choose to spend a few dollars to purchase the PCUnlocker Live CD.

  13. Erik says:

    Genius! Thanks, saved me a lot of time!

  14. Amol Takale says:

    Thanks for the trick
    But i have a problem while renaming old exe back to normal, it gives me below error,
    ” You need a permission from TrustedInstaller to make changes to this file “

    • Kieran says:

      That’s down to Windows elevated security, the easiest way to rename it back might be to repeat how you replaced it in the first place. Just boot back into a command prompt using the installer DVD.

      Good luck, be sure to let me know how you get on.

  15. Tobias says:

    If i try to switch into Windows/System32 … i get the error: the system cannot find the path specified
    What ever i try … doesn’t work. Maybe somebody knows my problem? :-/

    *Sorry for my bad english ^^ … My German is better :D*

    • Kieran says:

      Hi Tobias

      Try splitting the command into:

      cd windows [enter]
      cd system32 [enter]

      See if that works for you.

      • Pete says:

        I’ve got the same issue and doing it separately does not work. I used the following command to list all known logical disks available:

        wmic logicaldisk get caption

        I then went through each drive looking for Windows – seems it was E: on mine. Then I could follow the steps

  16. Dennis says:

    I followed all the steps and renamed the cmd.exe to Utilman.exe. However when I press Windows Key + U the utility manager still pops up? What gives???

    • Kieran says:

      Hi Dennis

      That is very strange, perhaps your system is using different paths?

      • Dirk says:

        Hi Kieran,

        First let me say thank you, great hint!
        But unfortunately I have the same issue as Dennis, the copy command to copy cmd.exe to Utilman.exe works fine, but in the same moment there is something happening in the backround and Utilman.exe is the original Utilman.exe as before, any ideas, thanks in advanced.

  17. Leigh says:

    I had the same problem as Tobias: “the system cannot find the path specified.”.
    My Windows partition was on D Drive and no C.
    This worked for me:
    ren Utilman.exe Utilman.exe.old
    copy cmd.exe Utilman.exe

  18. Eddy says:

    Thanks a lot for sharing! You just saved my day.

  19. Marco says:

    Great net user 🙂

    save me ..

  20. Arjun says:

    Hi Kieran – nice article… I have this server at a client site for which someone has managed to get the Admin password locked or expired. Anyway, I will probably need to “break” in. So I will basically need to do a hard boot of the server? It is a Dell blade M520 – I don’t recall but maybe there is a way to shut down through the ILO console similar to powering off a guest OS from the host. Not sure if that’s any better though than just the good old fashioned hard boot. Thoughts?

    • Kieran says:

      Hi Arjun, that’s correct I think you should have some kind of remote access via DRAC, where you will have to hard boot the server. The difficulty might be with mounting the DVD remotely but I am sure there is a way to do this in the DRAC console.

      Be sure to let us know how you get on.

  21. Pingback: Resetting Administrator Password in Windows 2008 | General Interests

  22. sandeep says:

    using this command after reboot “net user administrator Password12” below mention error getting.
    “the user name could not be found”

    the server is part of domain but i have remove the server over the LAN.
    Please suggest…..

  23. henrik says:

    Thanks Kieran! This procedure worked perfectly on my Windows 2008 Standard Server. I also forgot the password for my test server.

  24. chilecker says:

    I try this tips for a Raid 1 Sas Disk. are not ok because Windows not recognize this

  25. Mikhail says:

    Many thanks, it works!

  26. Carlos Guerrero says:

    Funciono!!!!, Muchísimas Gracias… hay que tener a la mano los drivers del arreglo raid , y arrancar la maquina en modo Boot UEFI.

    Sos Grande!!!!

  27. Gareth says:

    Hi, Kieran,

    Many thanks for this info it saved a lot of work. The instructions were beautifully straight forward and easy to follow

  28. Sayel says:

    Just used your solution, very impressed. thanks for sharing it with us.

  29. rick says:

    it is so so so…… awesome 🙂 🙂

  30. fernando says:

    nice work thanx

  31. Angelina says:

    i just used it it is awesome i am a student and it was really a time saver for me.

  32. Filip says:

    Trick worked perfectly here. Thank you.

  33. April says:

    My Virtual PC won’t go into full screen mode so I can’t send the Windows Key + U to the VPC. Apparently that only works in FS mode which I can’t go into unless I log it.

    I’ve spent so many hours trying to so many different things that I’m about to give up and rebuild the whole thing (I have a LOT of software installed on this VPC)

    I thought about buying PCUnlocker but I’m a little bit uncomfortable giving credit card info to that site.

  34. Luke says:

    I’m wondering if this will work even if Im running two SATAs as RAID!? Will it find the HDDs!?

  35. hamood says:

    i works with windows 2008 R2 that was a member of domain.

    i was getting trust error msg when i tried to login the domain from this computer.

    so i tried this solution and it worked , joined it back to the domain.

  36. Jason says:

    This is a life saver! Worked great on Dell T320, Windows 2008 Standard R2 SP1 with H310 Raid Controller (Workgroup)
    Only thing I need to add is I had to install RAID drivers during repair windows as Windows installation media did not recognize RAID drivers automatically, well no issues I just had to download drivers from Dell website and install, also my drive letter was E:\ not C:\ even though Windows 2008 is installed on C:\,
    I guess it was related to RAID drivers
    Thank you so much

  37. Kevin says:

    Also, if you just click LOAD DRIVERS. You can rename the files like normal and don’t need to actually use the dos commands because you can navigate like normal through the folders.

  38. rakesh says:

    the password changed successfully but after the process I cannot rename utilman.exe.old back to utilman.exe
    error: the system cannot find the file specified.

  39. elenkil says:

    Thank You so much!!! I had been trying to reset the password of a Windows 2012 R2 Domain Controller with lot of methods but the good one is yours.

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  43. Trent Glover says:

    Worked great. I’m sure you saved me a day’s worth of work.

  44. LI says:

    Nice one Kieran, I have been trying to reset one of my VM for weeks now and kept pushing it aside

  45. zaagii says:

    you best and perfect,thank you very much

  46. Antonio Oliveira says:

    Thanks for the tip. Worked great

  47. Sidiq says:

    Thank you very much, it works 🙂

  48. Pingback: Resetting Administrator Password in Windows 2012 | Supriyono pages

  49. Rajeev says:

    Thanks a lot! you saved my day

  50. Ed says:

    perfect. Thank you!

  51. Anthony says:

    Thought I’d take time to say what a Great little tip! Used it today saved a lot of headache, ours was not c: it was e: instead as the comment above mentioned

    Thanks again


  52. Jules says:

    Love it Love it Love it. Worked perfectly. Sooo simply and no need for third party tools. Thank Youuu.

  53. Nik Bold says:

    Thanks a lot. Worked like a charm and saved me half a day of messing around downloading and iso´s and burning cds or pen drives.

    Bit worrying how easily the password can be changed if you have physical access to the server. A great example of why servers should be in a locked room with limited access!

    Thanks Again

  54. Harish says:

    Hi what is the workaround for Non-domain system?

  55. amir says:

    Thank you very very much .

  56. ajat says:

    Thanks, it’s work

  57. Nilson Soares says:

    Thanks a million, man! It helped me a lot!

  58. Saurabh says:

    Thanks a lot Kieran!!! You made my day …

  59. Suxipo says:

    Thank you for this tips. Have to use it time to time. On my system it’s a bit different though. The Windows\system32 is on D. instead of C. Therefore if you see nothing when C: and dir then you should try different drive letter.

  60. Jon says:

    I just want to say thanks for such clear and concise instructions! We restored about 20 virtual servers and three lost their admin passwords.

    Note that with VMware when you choose the repair option it doesn’t always map the Windows drive to C:. It tells you where it is in the ‘System Recovery Options’ box (where you select ‘Command Prompt’).

  61. michaelerbyshire says:

    Great !
    well summarized.
    I will add a free tool named Lepide local user management tool which is available free and helps to reset admin/users passwords within few clicks.

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